Music | Back to his roots


A hip-hop prankster who holds a spiritual attachment to Father Ted, Kate Rothwell talks to Roots Manuva.

Roots Manuva is a busy man. The British-Jamaican hip-hop artist, known, aside from his many monikers, as Rodney Smith, has been enjoying the “continuous birthday party” that is touring with his latest album Slime and Reason. Smith has twelve years experience of touring, but this record takes a different, perhaps less angsty approach to that of his earlier work.

“You catch another side of Rodney. The first album, I was really quite antagonised… I didn’t know about a wider world, I made music just for the immediate people that were around.”

However, his autobiographical lyrics and the personal truth infused in his work endures with this album. Smith’s willingness to talk about his background may make for interesting lyrical content but has not always been gone down too well with his relations.

“Some of my family are a bit cross because I let out certain secrets and certain family phrases. My grandma, she had 15 kids to about eight different dads- it’s a different style of life, a different reasoning.”

A father himself, one of the things on Smith’s personal to-do list is to “be a better daddy to my kiddie winkies”, as well as to repress his inner diva.

“Sometimes I’m no different from Mariah Carey or Amy Winehouse – I’m a prima donna, I get into moods, I don’t want to talk to anybody, I get into strops. I want someone to carry my bags, I want someone to tell me I’m great.”

Whilst the Carey/Winehouse comparison may not refer to musical styles, the music does appeal to more than just a hip-hop fanbase. This is something which Smith appreciates, and puts down to his air of tomfoolery.

“It’s probably because I try and play the idiot that is in everybody and they kind of connect with it. When I’m sitting down making tunes, I’m not making it for hip-hop people but as a grown man to just make music.”
Smith always enjoys bringing Roots Manuva to Ireland, home of his spiritual leader of sorts.

“Father Ted is the man. Remember, I’m the son of a deacon, I’m the son of a preacher too so the way Father Ted brings it, it’s just the raw truth.”

However, there is a national icon that Smith will be steering away from on any excursion to Ireland.
“Last time [I was in Dublin], I had too much Guinness… well I had about four and I ended up in the hotel lobby and I didn’t have any underpants on, no shoes, no socks, I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing and I couldn’t work my way back in to my hotel… don’t give me too much Guinness for God’s sake!”

Be it for carefully crafted lyrics or a lack of underwear, Roots Manuva is one act that cannot be ignored.